Health survey a cause for concern, a reason to take action

A recent survey carried out by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of

Wisconsin Population Health Institute on the status and ranking of individual counties with regard to health factors and health outcomes is not exactly heart warming or encouraging.

Local counties — Lake, Mecosta and Osceola — ranked middle of the pack at best, and bottom of the barrel, at worst. Mecosta County ranked pretty low in anticipated health outcomes (length of life and quality of life), and logged a 63rd place — out of 82 counties with regard to health factors.

Osceola County was a bit behind in anticipated health outcomes and ranked 43rd in the state in health factors consideration.

Lake County is, simply put, one of the worst places in the state to live with regard to health considerations — 81 out of 82 in health factors.

Health factors measured by researchers include the physical environment, social and economic factors (40 percent of the consideration), clinical care (including access and quality), and health behaviors (including tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol and drug use, and sexual activity).

A lot of people will get very upset over the results of this research.

People living in Mecosta, Osceola and Lake counties are proud of their home communities, and take no little offense at outsiders coming in and judging them.

Still, the numbers don’t lie — certainly not by much one way or the other.

There is a lot that needs to be done to improve health outcomes and anticipation for a improved quality of life in our immediate neighborhood.

While some factors cannot necessarily be improved upon from one year to the next — such as employment — others can be addressed by both local government and individual citizens.

A simple look around the neighborhood shows we, in this extended community, are WAY behind when it comes to tobacco use, diet and exercise, and alcohol and drug use. And these behaviors make a huge difference not only in personal health, but in community health as well.

At the same time there is a real need for expanded family and support programs, improved health education opportunities, and continuing improvement in housing and public transportation programs.

We would hope the results of the community health survey wouldn’t simply be a reason to get defensive and upset, but rather would act as a wake-up call for everyone — individuals, organizations and government alike — to work smarter and better at improving the health-related quality of life for all in our area.

 

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